Riding With The Manny-Goat

March 6, 2018 at 12:13 pm (On the road again..., Sweet sticky things)

Explorer’s Spirit Animal

Arrgh. 7 AM. Usually when I’m drifting from hard sleep to REM. When the TV gets muted because the ads will keep me awake. (Enough with the miracle spring water, already.) But on Wednesdays I bounce out of bed, as bouncy as this old bag of bones gets, and make a frozen waffle breakfast. Kelly green butter is the first of many pretty colors I will be seeing.

By 9 AM, I am dressed and sitting by the window, waiting for Mizelle and Lily to pull up. Wednesday is road trip day!

A couple years back Mizelle bought property in central Washington. She’s still an airline employee in Portland, her commute is, how you say, a bitch. Two hours each way, if the weather isn’t an issue. From November to April, the weather is often an issue.

They rise and shine at 5:30 AM, loading the Ford Explorer with snacks and school supplies. Lily’s guitar case carried like a gunslinger, backpack almost as big as her, all piled into the rig. “Charlie, we have to do 70 or we’ll be late.” Mizelle, hater of technology and preferring a more Luddite-like existence, has mastered a traffic app on her phone that works pretty much flawlessly. “Wreck at I-205 and Mill Plain. Damn.” She takes a different route to my house each time, depending on what the phone says.

At 9 AM, Luna the dog goes off like a car alarm with teeth. “Be right there,” I holler through the window. I grab my Portland Pickles ballcap to keep hair somewhat ruly, don the Old Town hoodie that I love so much, and head out into the great wide open.

Mizelle always looks so bright in the morning. Big smiles and hugs as she passes me the keys. I get a slightly energetic howdy from Lily, but she’s not as much a morning person as her mother. She’s still swatting mental cobwebs; between the two of us we make about half a brain.

I adjust the seat back. No cords to maneuver under the seat, this car has a button for everything. Whizzz as the seat scoots itself back; I need an extra foot of legroom. Mirrors adjusted, view-space cleared, ( I have to see out the back window. I hate trusting mirrors.) I fire up the engine, so quiet it barely hums. I shift into gear and pull away. The doors lock themselves. Trippy.

I love getting out in the early air, when I have something to do and someone fun to do it with. Mizelle and I catch up, in a PG-13 kinda way. Lily’s in the backseat otherwise occupied, so we share in code. Soon I am pulling up at the airport, where Mizelle piles out, ready for her day as a ramp agent. She spends all day loading and unloading planes.

With Mizelle dispatched, Lily moves to the front seat. The first time I drove, she thought I might be more comfortable with her sitting in back? Pfft, the hell with that! (I apologize when I swear around her, but I swear around her all the time. She’s gonna hear it some day.) She takes position in the co-pilot seat, in charge of changing CDs and showing me how the radio works.

And the heater, and the defroster. So many buttons! It’s a goddamn space-ship. But, I can sit still, twist a nob and wash my back window. (I used to have to drive to the gas station and borrow their squeegee.) Buttons and apps. Sweet!

From the airport we proceed to Beaverton, where my li’l friend has classes from 10:30-3:30. Avoiding the freeway when possible, we cruise down Sandy Boulevard, cross the Burnside Bridge, take a cruise through Old Town to see who’s out, and show off the fact that I’m driving a car, motherfuckers! I recognize several; they see me in the car with a kid and it short-circuits their brain.

I drift past work. Eva is at the register, I honk and yell, “Hi, Eva!” She smirks and waves vacantly. Then I see Grinder on the far side of her, digging through her register. The tax-man collecteth. Grinder makes the rounds, scooping up cash to make deposits. It’s always pleasant to have him come take all your operating capital. “”Can you break a hundred?” “If you don’t mind fifty ones.”

But I’m not there. I’m cruising with my underage date!

We head up to Clay Street, and out Highway 26 for a brief moment of freeway follies. Soon we are in a three-lane pack of cars, zooming through tunnels at 60 MPH. Lily grooves on the graffiti in the tunnel, imagining how scary it would be to paint with cars flying by. We listen to the radio, mostly classic rock. At first, anyway. After a few weeks, I dug around and found some burned CDs from a beach trip with Meg. I’d hand one to Lily, and she would MC.

Taking the Canyon Road exit to downtown Beaverton, we amble along until we get to Tex Watson Avenue, where we take a left and pull into the church-school. Lily slips on two backpacks, finishing with guitar. She looks like a tiny Nancy Wilson heading off to class.

And now, I have a car and several hours to myself. I’m gonna take more advantage some day, but so far I use it mostly for errands and grocery shopping. My sister and niece had 28 books to return to the library? No problem. Groceries? Let’s go shopping in Happy Valley. I know a cashier out there…

By the time I get a couple things done, it’s time to wander from southeast Portland back out to Beaverton. I manage to just beat the evening exodus, and get back across into downtown before the freeways become the afternoon clusterfuck.

Lily tells me about her day. We discuss philosophy, music, the damnedest things sometimes. She used to be wary of me, but that has melted away. She’s a smart, cautious girl. I’m glad she trusts me.

After school, she goes to stay with a teacher who has a daughter her age. They hang out and do stuff until after Mizelle’s shift. Lily will be my last pick-up before I call it a day.

Around 7 PM, I head out to the wheels. I usually cruise up 82nd, stopping here and there to space out. Sometime between 7-9 PM my phone buzzes, and it’s Mizelle, beckoning me to be fetched. I beeline to the airport, and scoop her up among those getting dropped off at Departures.

It makes for a long tiring day, but a fun one. I love spending time with my friends, and the luxury of free use of an SUV is a perk worth having. It’s usually dark and rainy when we retrieve Lily out near the end of Airport Way, and her spriteliness soon fades to sound asleep, curled up on the back seat. I offer them my nephew’s old room for the night, but they always head home.

We are a set thing until summer vacation. Except for a couple snow-days, I’ve been able to see Mizelle once a week for the first time in about twelve years. I’m in constant amazement, I look back and think of how we used to be, and how we’ve grown into adults. (Some more than others, ahem. Mizelle passed me in the maturity department when she was about 23.) I am truly humbled and honored that she would trust her daughter with me, and pleased that her daughter doesn’t find me frightening, or worse, boring. She’s an awesome co-pilot and DJ, and I can’t wait for Music Appreciation Wednesday.

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